2020 was depressing. Nothing truly bad happened to me but the world around me has soured. Tens of thousands of people are dying of COVID-19. Normal life has come to a halt. The future is impossible to plan for and starts to become difficult to imagine. Most of the people and places that bring me joy are no longer available to me. I’m being governed by smug, venal, corrupt men who grin as they fail to cope with COVID-19, refuse to protect or to reward those fighting it and gleefully waste billions of pounds of borrowed public money getting their cronies to set up over-priced and under-performing companies to profiteer from the crisis.
Talking about books in a year like that reminds me of an old one-liner:
‘But apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play.’
Yet not talking about books feels like giving up.
A lot of 2020 was a struggle not to give up.
I read, of course. I always do. I consumed more than 150 books and my year would have been bleaker without them. But 2020 was also a year of Book Abandonment. I don’t mean the eighteen books that hit my ‘Life’s Too Short’ pile. I was glad to set those aside. I mean the half a dozen books that I set aside because, although I know they’re good, I just couldn’t keep my mind on them. I mean the Reading Challenges that I set aside that had seemed fun at the start of the year but had become a burden by the end of Spring.
It made me realise that, at the moment, I don’t want to be challenged by what I read. I want to be taken outside of myself. I want to inhabit the imaginations of people who can populate interesting places with interesting people and who can remind me that the world won’t always be like this.
So, when I came to think about setting a reading goal for 2021, as I have done for each year for a decade or more now, this is the image that came to my mind:
I knew that, in 2021, all I want from my reading is for it to be kind to me.
So, I thought of Pooh, sitting on his chair next to a stack of books and not being guided by anything other than a feeling that ‘It’s time for a little something’.
I have a stack of books like that. A much bigger stack than I could possibly read in a year. I don’t want to visualise that stack as ‘Mount TBR’, something to be scaled and conquered. I realised that, like Pooh, I prefer this image:
I want to see my stack of books as a Book Larder filled with snacks for me to graze on when it’s ‘time for a little something.’
One of the things I enjoyed in 2020 was using a #FridayReads post to plan my reading a week at a time. It wasn’t really the planning that i enjoyed but taking the time to think about what I was going to enjoy in the next week, to get to know the writers a little and to think about what I wanted from the books.
So, in 2021, I’m going to use #FridayReads to channel my inner Pooh Bear to ‘Go with the flow and read as my whimsy takes me.’